Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Angels and Admirals

Although We have cruised a few kilometers since the last update, I have lacked the enthusiasm to report.
The Summer weather has eluded us until now...the first week of October! We have had no rain for almost a week now, plus record temperatures.
Our plan was always to explore the Netherlands before heading down to France next season. We have certainly done that, cruising from Maastricht in the South to the Northern coastline where we looked out on a bleak North Sea.
                                                                              Who gives way!
Our journey North followed the Maas river, sharing the waterway with massive commercial barges, quiet backwaters providing havens for the night.
At S-Hertogenbosh cathedral we were told to look out for the Angel on the cellphone. Oh yea, pull the other one! But there she was,carved in stone- Jeans, shoulder bag and cellphone up there on the roof with all the others.

The Angel on the cellphone

Where we could, we stayed off the main waterways, bypassing Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The Vecht river has to be one of the prettiest waterways, taking us to the Markermeer and the now landlocked inland sea that used to be the Zuider Zee.
Here we found the rich maritime history kept alive. Museums were out of the wind and rain, we learned all about the Dutch East India Company, and Admiral Micheal de Ruyter, and his battles with the English.
Tradtitional barges have been restored and are sailed enthusiastically. At Enkhuizen a whole village has been preserved as an active working museum. Across the IJsselmeer in Friesland the land is half water. We make it back to Sneek where two years ago our search for a boat began.

               We moor by the Watergate at Sneek, where we first started our boat hunt

By mid september the season was winding down, people had had enough of the weather, We too wanted to get back on the plane. Suddenly Summer happened.
The deserted squares and open air cafes reopened, and boaters pulled off their covers again. One of the highlights of this time was a visit in Meppel to the Korenmolen "De Weert", a fully restored and working flour windmill.

                                                         The working mill at Meppel
We visited Lelystad they have rebuilt the Batavia, a Dutch East Indiaman. Not satisfied with that they are now rebuilding de Ruyters flagship, The Seven Provinces, from scratch!

                         The Seven Provinces, de Ruyters flagship, being rebuilt from scratch

The mornings are misty now and the days shorter. In a week we will be hauling out for the winter in Enkhuizen.

Monday, 25 July 2011

We cruise to the hills

To the Highlands
Maastricht, from the hill

After cruising the Biesbosch, and spending a few days in Drimmelen marina, on the river Amer, and getting a few jobs sorted, we were told that we must visit Maastricht.
My only knowledge of the town was that here the treaty was signed that formed the EU.
The Wilhelminakanal, a man made waterway took us far to the South, This finger of the Netherlands pushes deep into Germany and Belgium, this is hill country.
Maasbrecht lock, a 12m rise

Massive Deep locks lift us to 300 ft above sea level. while most of Holland is some 5m below sea level.
We are joined in Maastricht by another two couples from NZ and Aus, bringing with them a decent size ensign, to try and match the huge flags flown from the local boats.
A series of  fronts head for Europe

The last few days have tested our patience with the weather, as a series of fronts have swept across Europe.
Heading north once more we have cruised down the Maas river, finding great evening moorings in little well serviced marinas.

A tight fit for Antiope

Misty morning

We are heading into the central regions towards Amsterdam,  

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cruising the Delta and the Biesbosch

We have gently eased into the gentle art of cruising in the Netherlands.
Restored Botter yachts in Veere
Thus after a couple of weeks getting the flavour of Zeeland, and enjoying the hospitality of the Middleburg Yacht club. We were joined there by a NZ couple Bruce and Val.
Underway again, the Town of Veere deserved another visit at the north end of the Middleburg canal, Once a major seaport when the wool trade with Scotland thrived, now it has become a picturebook tourist village.
Then We ventured once more onto the Meers, or landlocked waters lying between the delta islands.
Morning visitor at our Veersemeer mooring
The Dutch have created isolated island moorings in these meers.Here we moored free and woke up to find deer grazing close by in the morning.
Lift bridge at Zierikzee

Windmills and barge on the Hollandsdiep

Once more through the busy Zandkreek lock and a left turn took us to the old fishing port of Zierikzee. When sailing here as a lad on the old family boat it was one of my mothers favourite stops.
The Ark, built to the original dimensions!

Just around the bend outside Dordrecht we find the Ark! built by an excentric Dutchman over the last year or two, what is he trying to tell us?
A quiet mooring in the Biesbosch
Windmills are still part of the Netherlands landscape, once they were used to drain the land, now the modern versions provide power, These wind generators are everywhere here and after a while you don't notice them.
  Moving slowly inland we stopped at Willemstad and then Dordrecht, Here four commercial waterways meet, It is said to be the busiest maritime junction in Europe.
In contrast to this bustle and just to the south is the Biesbosch a huge wetland sanctury where we found a quiet mooring for the night among the reeds.
The last night aboard for our guests. Wind and rain and low water, greeted us in the morning, and the semi tidal creeks tested our skill with the echo sounder, we made our way south through the lattice of channels
Finally and With some relief we came to the deep waters of the river Amer and Drimmelen Marina.

Excuse the editing some if these pics have ended up out of step with the story
I will use the excuse that my screen is all in Dutch.
Cheers Charles and Annie

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Adventure begins

Antiope 4th July 2011
Our first week in a new country has been all we hoped for.
Two seasons of preparation are now beginning to pay off. After the crossing from England we spent a couple of days in Middleburg before heading up the waterway to the historic port of Veere.

Antiope moored in the old harbour at Veere

Little has changed in this picturebook dutch harbour here since my youth, here on family sailing holidays.
The dutch have been hard at work for centuries, keeping the North sea out of their back yard. in doing so they have created landlocked recreational waterways, like the Veersmeer, where we found a quiet island tied up and set up the BBQ.
First BBQ in Holland, on an Island on the Veersemeer
The morning after this magical evening, there were rumblings in the sky, heralding a dramatic thunderstorm,
Drama in the skies, over the Veersmeer

The trend for restoring and sailing traditional boats is strong here. We were overhauled by this Botter yacht on the Oosterschelte.
Traditional restored Botter yacht

We are getting familiar with lock etiquette. The general rule is that when the gates open and the lights turn green everyone makes their own run at it.
Survival of the fittest, tis good to own a steel boat.
Zandkreek lock at the head of the Veersmeem

July should see us heading northwards towards Amsterdam and the Isselmeer. but just now we are in no hurry enjoying the new found Summer weather.

Solar powered hydrofoil

While moored in Middleburg we watched a competition between solar powered craft, the winner, a hydrofoil reached speeds of 36km per hour.
Cheers Charles and Annie,      in Zeeland


Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Netherlands at last

After a frustrating few weeks waiting for a weather window we made a dash for it across the North sea direct to Holland, or more correctly the Netherlands.
The Queen Mary passes us at Dawn, mid crossing
Mid way across, and just before dawn we saw what looked like a small ferry boat overtaking us, but it was way off the normal shipping lane. It grew in size and became the Queen Mary, she slowly cruised around us and carried on her way.
Antiope moored in Middleburg
From the comfort of the Middleburg yacht club we can look out on Antiope snug in the calm inland waters.
Now able to relax a little, look out for more regular Blog updates
Cheers Charles and Annie

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Our 2011 Season begins

Antiope survived the harsh English winter well snug ashore at North Fambridge.
We arrived at the end of May, to be told that Summer was last week, indeed since getting aboard the weather has been turbulent, Only last week the East of England was declared a drought Zone, on the same day that the heavens opened. It seems to have rained every second day since..
Launch day  June 7th

A few jobs remained to be done from last season, not least replacing two exhaust systems and giving the topsides a fresh coat of paint.
Once in the water we set off for our sea trials, the first was a run down river to Burnham on Crouch, where on the stroke of six pm,  we were surrounded by an Optimist armada-just great to see the enthusiasm of all the kids.

The Armada of Optimists, Burnham on Crouch

After the mandatory beer in the Crouch Yacht Club, we cast off and headed downstream on Friday evening the 10th June, to drop anchor for the first time just up the river Roach, close to where Charles Darwins' Beagle would have ended her days as a 'Watch boat', a kind of floating home for revenue officers.
These are the creeks and rivers where I learnt, in my youth, so much about messing about in boats.
Oyster catchers and Curlews woke us in the morning, scavaging the falling tide line a few metres from us.
Taking the last of the tide down river and out to sea, we picked our way from buoy to buoy through the 'Swin' and up with the new flood tide to Maldon on the river Blackwater.

The Jolly Sailor, the Hythe, Maldon

Here we moored with the fleet of restored Thames Barges on the Hythe. Two old  waterside pubs serve the mix of sailors that gather here. The tide leaves us high on the mud for 10 hours.

Antiope waits for the tide

We left on the next morning tide, heading down river then up the coast.

Walton backwaters BBQ time

The evening found us anchored in the Walton Backwaters These secret waters were made famous by the author Arthur Ransome. in 'Coote club'.  A BBQ on deck completed the day.

Satisfied now that Antiope is ready for the crossing to Holland, we are now looking for a weather window.
Motor boats can be uncomfortable in rough sea, so we are prepared to wait. As I write we are tied up in Ipswich Dock at the head of the Orwell river, High winds are forcast for the next few days, but there are several old haunts here to explore, we will not be bored.

Charles and Annie
Aboard Antiope

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Water Gipsy - ‘Antiope’ newsletter August 2009

 Blog from original Newsletter August 2009          

It’s all the same but different

Burnham on Crouch, in Essex is where I learnt to sail, run aground, read a tidetable, drink beer and discover girls.
Here I am again, hopefully older and wiser, and this time with a big motor boat!
Yes we have bought the boat in which to explore Europe. Her name ‘Antiope’ or ant-eye-oh-pee.
It nearly didn’t happen, as our sortie to Holland failed to come up with the goods. Yes, there were some very smart and well presented craft over there but in the end, very few ticked all of our boxes and none were within our budget. It seemed that the Netherlands are not feeling the recession and there were no bargains to be had. Our funds were in Sterling which is still suffering against the Euro.
 We did however find friendly folk and some wonderful old towns, owing their heritage to the waterways. We developed a must-come-back feeling, and a determination to explore the country more slowly by water, and in our own

A Watergate in the Netherlands at Sneek

Taking stock on our return to England we now had a firm idea of what we were looking for in a boat.
So it was head down, back on the internet again, and there, just listed on the ‘Boatshed’ website, a sort of boating Trade me, was what looked like the perfect fit. A phone call to the broker and we headed down to Gallions Reach marina. This is a rather grand title for a forgotten corner of the old London Royal docks near Woolwich and directly under the end of the city airport runway. There, covered in a layer of avgas soot was ‘Antiope’ a ‘Branson 46’, or 14m of steel trawler style motor yacht. It seemed that a buyer had pulled out and the owners having bought another boat just wanted her sold.

Antiope unloved in a London Dock

With a bit of courage, a survey, sea trial and a huge leap of faith, we became her new owners, with co-conspirators Roger and Robyn who have been working alongside us on this project for the past two years.
The deal done, we had a hasty planning meeting before our new partners had to fly home that same evening back to work and family in Australia.
For us, a run up the Thames to check that the essential systems worked seemed like a good idea, also a chance to visit friends in Shepperton, and to the familiar non tidal waters that we knew from Water Gipsy days. 

                                                    Visiting friends in Shepperton

We were learning more every day as we delved into Antiope’s past, finding papers and records in various drawers.  She learnt that she was built to cross the Atlantic and explore polar waters but more of that later.
We quickly gained confidence in her good natured handling ability. But it was clear that recent years of neglect demanded a haul out for a good bottom paint and to give us the opportunity to set her up for European waters.
Burnham on Crouch came up in conversation as an affordable place to do the work. So here we are. We had an interesting run down the Thames in typically stormy July weather, vivid memories of estuary shallows and tidal currents times came rushing back. Many centuries of silt have washed down the river and settled in a web of very tricky sandbanks. Wind turbines now march out along these ridges. We had to voyage 8 miles out to sea before there was enough water for us to turn north and head back inland and up the river Crouch for a well earned beer.  Burnham can still boast 15 pubs,
 4 yacht clubs, and a yacht marina that did not exist when I last sailed here.

                                    Hauling  out at Burnham, ready to start work on the hull

  Charles and Annie

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Rhine River?

Blog from our August 2010 newsletter 

No, not quite Cologne, Paris, Amsterdam or Bruges, but with a real summer in England, cruising the Thames has been hard to beat.
We arrived in England in May to find that Antiope had fared well through one of the hardest winters for decades, and once re-launched our plan was to head out for sea trials, before making the crossing over to Europe..
We soon found that winter was not exactly over. The onboard heating system needed an overhaul, the anchor winch wouldn’t, and fuel was finding its way to places it shouldn’t. There is nothing like going to sea to find out what needs fixed! Our partners Roger and Robyn also had to cut short their cruise, called back to Australia unexpectedly.
Time to take stock..  After all, Antiope had languished, unloved in a London Dock for a year or two before we found her and since then we had only cruised a few miles in calm waters, while also treating her gently.
Better to sort the problems and finish the refit in England we thought.
Invitations to do a bit of offshore sailing were also in the air.
It did seem like a good idea to at least escape the clutches of the river Crouch before the doom merchants in the bar started muttering about us rotting in harbour.
The Suffolk rivers of the East coast just a day’s run north was my boyhood playground and worth revisiting. We soon found that driving a launch from the shelter of the cabin has its merits punching into a cold northeaster, not a trip that I would have enjoyed under sail. Ipswich dock became our home for a few weeks, this historic area long since disused commercially has been transformed into a friendly marina close the heart of town

Spritsail barges in Ipswich dock.

In the days of sail, these barges would load grain and hay here to feed London. Some of these lovingly preserved Spritsail rigged barges still charter and barge races are a spectacle on this coast.
For much of June a persistent strong NE wind churned up the North Sea and ideas of exploring the Norfolk broads dimmed. A run up the Thames became more appealing all the time. After a few jobs had been ticked off, taking advantage of a lull in the weather, with an early start and a fair tide,  we made a trouble free day’s run up to Limehouse dock  London.  Antiope sensed that she was back in familiar waters. For us too Limehouse dock had been a favourite stop in the Water Gipsy days.
It also heralded a turning point in the summer weather. 

                                                 Antiope, a tight fit in a Thames lock

Locks,Bridges and Pubs punctuated our voyage over the next ten days, all the way up river to the heart of Oxford.
                                            Moored outside the famous ‘Angel’ pub Henley

The very low arched Folly bridge was the final test, if we could clear this we should be able to navigate through most of France. For the Riverhead pub full of Oxford students with a grandstand view of the bridge, waiting for craft to get it wrong is daily entertainment.

                                                   The ‘Folly bridge’ Oxford,   

With canopy down and a careful line up we made it with 10cm to spare, winning a cheer from the shore.
Antiope was able to cruise 150 miles in from the sea, and while there always seemed to be another job to do, we have also enjoyed the company of friends aboard. It has been a busy season. 
As the northern summer cools and the autumn winds start to drive the leaves from the trees, we will put Antiope to bed once more in North Fambridge, Essex. She is now much better prepared for the waterways of Europe in 2011, her crew too now have the measure of handling locks and bridges.
Our plans for 2011 have yet to be set in stone.  An Antiope website is on the job list.

Cheers Charles and Anne,
‘ Antiope’   Shepperton on Thames